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Tony Cruz happy to make good use of his red-hot form (Foto by Tim De Waele)
Tony Cruz happy to make good use of his red-hot form (Foto by Tim De Waele)

Tony Cruz takes 4th in crash-filled finale of Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen

15. April 2009

Schoten

Tony Cruz continued the BMC Racing Team's streak of successful races Wednesday by snagging 4th place in a mad sprint for the line which saw a handful of riders crashing within sight of the finish. 

Alessandro Petacchi took the overall victory with a blazing burst of speed, unhindered by the fracas behind him.  Even before Cruz's excellent finish, the stage had already been an eventful one for BMC which had Jeff Louder in a four man breakaway that stayed clear of the pack until nine kilometers from the finish.

Taking the heat off the sprinters

"Today was really a wonderful day for us," Directeur Sportif John Lelangue explained.  "We gave the best performance which was what we had hoped for."  The past two years BMC has solidified its reputation as being a team for the breakaways.  This season the focus has shifted slightly from getting in the early breaks to saving more energy to be used in the later sections of the stages.  However, getting into the break today worked perfectly into the team's strategy.  "The idea was for one of us to get into the break and take some of the pressure off the sprinters in the team, but it took a lot of effort to get the move going," Jeff Louder said.  "The break started out as an echelon selection in the wind, and then Bernucci and Pronk took off; there was no immediate reaction so I bridged up to them."  With still over 100 kilometers to go to the finish, the breakaway companions who had also been joined by Pavel Brutt, would have a long hard road ahead of them if they were going to make it to the finish line in the lead. "The racing conditions were pretty good but there was a lot of wind and we had to ride full out for quite a while to get the move to stick," Louder explained.  "Once we entered the final three circuits it started to look really promising since we were still holding the pack off pretty well." 

Crashes mar the final 30 km

The course took the riders on three final 16 kilometer circuits which included three passes over the 1700m long Broekstraat cobbled section.  With just over 30 km to go, a large crash happened on the first pass through the cobbles taking down BMC's Markus Zberg in the process.  But the resulting mayhem gave the break a new lease on life.  "Jeff's work in the break was absolutely perfect for me today because it gave me a chance to sit in and open the legs up little by little," Tony Cruz said.  "A race like this really needs a complete performance from the team, and we were able to deliver that today, especially with Jeff who was phenomenal."  The top sprinting teams were able to re-organize the chase which eventually reeled the breakaway back in.  "It was never easy today and we were off the front for a long time so our average speed was pretty insane," Louder said.  "Near the end I was pretty cooked and felt bad that I was sitting on a bit more than I would have liked; Brutt and Bernucci were really strong keeping the break going, but in the end it took just too much energy." 

Cruz finds success in a madcap sprint

With 1000 meters left in the race, complete chaos erupted as everyone tried to elbow some space to make a sprint.  "I've been in that situation often enough and I was just sensing that a crash was about to happen," Cruz explained.  "With about 300 meters to go I started my sprint, pretty sure someone was about to go down."  As Cruz was opening up his sprint, several riders crashed right next to him, bumping into Cruz and forcing him to lose momentum.  "I was hoping that I could accelerate away from the crash, but one rider fell into me."  Such boxing matches with handlebars seldom end happily.  Though he felt his finishing position could have been better without the hindrance of the crash, Cruz was happy to get the result for himself and for the team.  "I had such good legs at Roubaix that I was never able to make use of, I definitely wanted to get a result here before heading back to the states," Cruz said. 

BMC on a roll to Romandie

Since the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen has gained in prestige and notoriety the past several years, BMC can look to Tony Cruz's 4th place as one of its best one day Euro results.  "For me today is really special because it is a race for the best sprinters in the world," Cruz said.  "So to get a good result here is very important to me and very good for the team in general."  "This is a real semi-classic event with a long history, so to take 4th place is certainly our best result in a race of this calibre," Lelangue explained.  With the Tour of Romandie set to start in a couple of weeks, BMC is pleased that they are finding their legs and gelling as a team.  "The team is moving in the right direction and everyone can feel the energy," Louder explained.  "I will take the next couple of days off and then kick in the final training for Romandie; looking at how things are progressing for us, it should be a good race."